Once-off houses tend to be built in rural areas by the owners by direct labour who usually employ tradesmen with specialist expertise to deal with different elements. The expertise of the persons who help in the constructions of these houses varies widely and the co-ordination of a person with expertise in building technology is sometimes lacking.
Also, many once-off houses are built without the aid of any construction specialist such as an architect or engineer. The situation was improved over the years as lenders insisted on certification of foundations, block work and roof timbers by competent professionals at stages.
New building regulations were introduced on 1 March 2014. This was intended to ensure that it would no longer be possible to build a new house or carry out an extension to a house involving a floor area of 40 square metres, without having an architect, chartered engineer or building surveyor involved, both in signing off that the design complies with the building regulations and, when finished, that the completed house does so, as well.
Most importantly, the new regulations required the professional to prepare an inspection plan and to carry on inspections to monitor the building at the stages specified in the plan. We believe that this involvement of skilled professionals in the design and monitoring of the building of houses will improve building standards.
However, as a result of extensive lobbying by the self-build industry, the Irish government allowed an opt-out for once-off houses or extensions to a dwelling. Self-building is routine in rural areas and houses built under the opt-out are unlikely to benefit from improved building standards. It remains to be seen if availing of the opt-out will have any adverse affect on re-sale prices of houses which availed of this opt out.